On Burnout, Recovery, and Taking a Break

Hello Friends.
This is STEMS and Leaves. A place where we explore intersectional stories in STEM. I’m the creator, Emme.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve shared a new episode. This semester has been incredibly busy and I haven’t had the time I want to dedicate to researching new topics and interviewing guests. Honestly, I bit off more than I can chew this semester. Between research, an internship, a full course schedule, and just staying alive… I’m honestly burned out.

I think I got a little overconfident in my abilities to work and get things done coming off my summer in DC. When I was out there working for FMCSA, I was regularly putting in 9 and 10 hour days, touring the town, networking, and interviewing wonderful guests for the show. It was exhausting, but energizing. Like the ache your body feels after a good workout.

Beyond managing that hectic schedule, I also hit a lot of personal highs. Since moving out of my parent’s house a few years ago, this was the longest stretch of time I’d gone without seeing my family or close fiends. As someone who depends heavily on their support network, it was exciting to realize that I’m capable of managing myself solo and enjoying it too. For the past few years, I was really stuck in a cycle of following other people’s ideas of what my life should look like. Until this summer, I hadn’t realized how fantastic is to do whatever I want and take pride in it.

I can’t lie, it had me feeling really good. So when I returned to Columbus to wrap up my undergrad obligations, I figured it was safe to take on a lot more. Besides, now that I’m home and close to my friends and family and sleeping in my room full of plants and knick-knacks, it would be easier right?

Not really. As school started again and I got into my aviation research and a planning internship at MORPC, I found there really are not enough hours in the day. To eat three meals, exercise, go to class, do my research work, clean up, do chores, talk to a person, manage my cat, study for the GRE, draft application essays, script new episodes, research new guests, make time to run errands, etc etc and etc. Before I noticed how exhausted I was (am), I went numb.

Everything seemed okay, until it didn’t. Burnout has a way of creeping up on you. Problems and stressors are polarized. Each task on my daily to do list was either the most boring thing in the universe or it would change the entire trajectory of the universe forever. Little things that were easy start to become terrifyingly intense. Remembering to eat feels impossible and forgetting to eat is a three day guilt trip.

The exhaustion started to creep into my thoughts. I started feeling incredibly cynical about my research and internship. Both felt entirely pointless. I couldn’t bring myself to work on grad school applications. What’s the point of going to grad school if I’m going to be tired forever? Getting things done didn’t feel like victories or progress. It felt like avoiding failure.

When I started to realize that this semester might be taking more out of me than I had, I pumped the brakes. I suspended my work for STEMS and Leaves, took a few mental health days off from classes, and turned to my family for support. I’ve made some adjustments to my classes and have spent a lot of time shifting my own expectations about what I can get done this semester. In short, I can’t do everything.

I’ve got friends, family, and faculty supporting me in ways that I am beyond grateful for as I give myself space this semester to finish classes strong and investing in self-care. I’ve got a lot of things I want to do for STEMS and Leaves, but I can’t do them if I’m not my best self. So, I will be taking a break for the rest of this semester and putting the podcast on hold.

I hope you too take some time this semester and season to take care of yourself. Let’s all rest and recuperate and come back next year to keep creating amazing things and exploring stories together.

This is STEMS and Leaves. I’m Emme. Stay curious.

One thought on “On Burnout, Recovery, and Taking a Break

  1. Hey Emme!

    I loved your episode on Urban Foraging. It’s interesting to view an urban landscape as food. Tapping into a dusty old instinct it feels delightful searching for wild edibles. Almost like the feeling of finding Easter eggs as a child. It’s primal, simple and earthy in ways modern life lacks.

    Don’t forget to treat yourself over break!



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